Egypt: IGOHR Condemns Twin Bomb Blast on Church Premises as a Violation of Human Rights Principles
The International Gulf Organization for Human Rights (IGOHR) vehemently denounces the two atrocious suicide bomb attacks that recently targeted a religious minority group in Egypt resulting in the death of at least 47 innocent civilians during their church service. The organization is also deeply concerned about the safety and security of religious groups in Egypt as it views this heinous crime as a total violation of not only international human right principles and values of peace, security of person and tolerance but equally against religious rights which are enshrined in several human rights treaties.
The first bomb blast occurred some 56 miles (90km) north of Cairo (Egypt’s capital), while a group of worshipers were praying at the Mar Girgis church in city of Tanta. About 29 people were killed and 71 others injured during the incident. The second explosion which came three hours later took place at St Mark’s Cathedral in the port city of Alexandria and claimed the lives of 18 persons including three police officers who tried to prevent the suicide bomber from entering the premises as well as wounding 35 others civilians. The so-called ISIS extremist group claimed responsibility of these horrific attacks and announced more similar attacks against the Christian minority group in the country.
The recent bombings were the latest in a series of attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority, who make up about 10% of the population and have been repeatedly targeted by extremist groups operating in the region. In December 2016, a bomb attack still claimed by ISIS, killed about 25 people at a Coptic cathedral in Cairo during a service. IGOHR stresses that continuous violence based on sects and religious beliefs is a grave violation of human rights such as the right to life, right to freedom of association and expression of one’s beliefs. It equally harms the peace and unity of a religiously diverse society any nation like Egypt which is made up of 88% Muslims, 10% Christians and about 2% belonging to other faiths.
The prohibition of religious discrimination and violence is enshrined in all core international human rights treaties and all countries must take steps to ensure that, in practice, every person in their territory has the right to practice the faith of their choice without being violently attacked. Under Article 18 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights, every individual has the right to enjoy freedom of choice with respect to religious ideas or beliefs and should not be prevented thereof to practice these beliefs. These conventions also mandate all State parties to take positive measures to ensure that private persons or entities do no inflict cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment on others within their power.
The International Gulf Organization for Human Rights believes that the latest bombings targeting religious minority groups in Egypt is a total breach of these and other human rights principles and which need urgent attention by the Egyptian government to prevent further escalation. International Human Rights law also places a responsibility on States to provide effective remedies in the event of violations. Thus, the government of Egypt must respect its obligation and take concrete steps and put in place effective measures that will not only protect the rights of religious minority groups but equally all religions in the country. These measures should also engender peace, tolerance, safety and security of person, and the acceptance of other’s beliefs. This should likewise be in conformity with all international and regional human rights instruments.
IGOHR therefore strongly condemns these twin bomb explosions and calls on the Egyptian authorities to swiftly investigate on the attack and hold accountable all those responsible for the cruel acts and bring them to justice by transferring the perpetrators to the International Criminal Court (ICC). IGOHR further calls on the Egyptian government to continuously ensure the safety and protection of all religious groups and intensify its current efforts to fight terrorism in the country while ensuring peace and order of its people. IGOHR expresses its heartfelt condolences and sincere sympathy to the families of the victims, the Egyptian government, the Egyptian society and wishes a quick recovery to all those injured.